Detroit Tigers prospect John Schreiber's Comerica Park debut was a romantic one

Jeff Seidel
Detroit Free Press

It started with a lie. Not a horrible one. Just a fib.

John Schreiber, one of the Detroit Tigers’ top prospects, said he had to go to Comerica Park to sign some paperwork.

“You can go, too,” Schreiber told his girlfriend, Rebecca. “They’ll show us around.”

It was a frigid, snow-packed December day, about six months after Schreiber had been selected by the Tigers in the 15th round (No.445 overall)  of the 2016 MLB draft. They toured the locker room, met some team officials and ended up in the Tigers’ dugout.

“It had just snowed and it was freezing outside,” Rebecca said. “The dugout was covered in snow.”

John went down on one knee and proposed in the Tigers’ dugout.

She said yes.

John and Rebecca Schreiber got engaged at Comerica Park. They're hoping to return soon, with John on the mound for the Detroit Tigers.

“She was bawling,” John said. “She was excited. It was an awesome moment for us to do it in the dugout.”

Here was a Tigers prospect, who was drafted by his hometown team and now lives in Rockwood, a small city in Wayne County; and he was getting engaged in the park where he had gone on about 10 dates with Rebecca over the years.

 “Do you remember what he said?” I asked Rebecca.

“Not really,” she said. “I was so nervous.”

Rebecca and John had been dating since high school — they met at Gibraltar Carlson — but still, Rebecca didn’t expect this.

“Why did you pick there?” I asked John.

“Because we both love baseball,” he said. “She’s been watching me ever since high school. She has been my biggest supporter. I just always wanted to propose to her at a ballpark. It was awesome. That’s what I wanted to do.”

Now, Rebecca has a small tattoo of a heart-shaped baseball on her wrist.

“It’s a baseball life,” she said, smiling.

You can’t get much more fairy tale than that.

Except, of course, if he could one day get called up to Detroit.

And he keeps inching closer to making that happen.

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Side-arm delivery

Life has been a lot easier for John and Rebecca Schreiber, who live in Rockwood, since John was called up to Triple-A Toledo.

Kneeling in a dugout in the snow?

It was an unorthodox engagement, which only seems fitting because Schreiber is an unorthodox pitcher, a side-arming righty who has climbed quickly through the Tigers' farm system.

MLB Pipeline ranks him as the Tigers' No.24 prospect after not listing in the preseason.

 “He’s a mature kid, doing things very well,” said Tigers roving pitching instructor A.J. Sager, who travels throughout the organization, working with pitchers.

Schreiber broke onto the prospect scene in 2017, putting up crazy numbers at Class-A West Michigan: 70 strikeouts, eight walks and just three runs allowed in 50 1/3 innings.

“He had a really, really good year and probably put himself on the map with that year, just based on sheer numbers,” Sager said.

Schreiber expected to be sent to High-A Lakeland in 2018, which would have been the usual progression, but he skipped that step, advancing to Double-A Erie.

 “They just posted it on the wall,” he said. “I saw my name on the Erie roster and I was excited.”

He had a rough start, giving up five runs in his first five relief appearances, though only one was earned. But he learned from it, allowing just 20 more runs — 15 earned — in his final 52 1/3 innings in Erie.

“There were some bumps early, which was fine,” Sager said. “You wish they all went smooth, but they hardly ever do. John got it back on track. He handled that well.”

“The hitters are definitely more talented and more polished the higher you go,” Schreiber said. “At the beginning of the season, I struggled. Halfway through the season, I started figuring some things out. I got comfortable out there. It was awesome.”

He started out this season with a return to Erie, striking out 12 and walking three in seven innings over five appearances.

In late April, he was promoted to Triple-A Toledo and promptly gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, an immediate test. How would he respond?

“The thing that was pleasing to me was, he stayed right after the hitters and didn’t run away from the strike zone,” Sager said.

Since that first home run, he has allowed seven hits and one earned run while striking out 15 batters in 13 1/3 innings.

“He’s doing great,” Rebecca said.

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Coming out of nowhere

John and Rebecca started dating in high school. “We went on a couple of dates and then he came over to my house and he asked me to be his girlfriend on my parents' coach,” she said. “I was 15, he was 16.”

He didn’t project to be a professional baseball player; he barely looked like a college prospect, throwing in the low-80s.

“I just wanted to keep playing,” he said. “Henry Ford (Community College) contacted me and I was like, ‘OK, yeah, I want to play.’ ”

After a year at Henry Ford, he spent the next three years at Northwestern Ohio, in Lima.

His velocity skyrocketed the summer of his junior year.

“I just worked really hard in college,” he said. “My first year, I was 6-2 and 170 pounds and then discovered the weight room in college. Just built up muscle and started throwing harder.”

Needless to say, they were both stunned when he was drafted by the Tigers.

“We are from a small town and we are Tigers fans,” Rebecca said. “It’s mind blowing, honestly. He was a huge Tigers fan. I think one of his favorite players was Brandon Inge, one of them at least.”

They were married on Jan.11 at St Frances Cabrini Church in Allen Park.

Right before he headed to spring training.

Close to home

Detroit Tigers pitching prospect John Schreiber proposed to his now-wife, Rebecca, at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Rebecca works as an administrative assistant at Rockwood City Hall.

“What was it like when he started playing in Toledo?” I asked Rebecca over the phone. “It has to be easier for you. Just the travel.”

“It’s awesome,” she said. “He got called up during an away series, so it didn’t hit me at first. Then, when he was home, we went to a home game and it was so surreal. The last time I was in there was for a field trip in high school. He was actually in the class I was in. So it was really cool. We never thought he would be pitching there some day.”

“How old were you?”

“I was probably 15 and he was 16,” she said. “It was a sports marketing class.”

Now, Schreiber is staying in Rockwood, about a 32-minute commute to Fifth Third Park in Toledo, where he pitches for the Mud Hens.

Of course, he would love to head north one of these days, instead of going south.

“What would it be like if he pitches in Detroit?” I ask.

“I don’t even know what I would do if it happened,” Rebecca said.

If it is possible to hear somebody smiling through the phone, it happened right then.

Tigers top prospects' minor league statistics for 2019 ]

Contact Jeff Seidel: Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to